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Family project:

Plant wildflowers in the tree pits

Native wildflowers are a great way to bring some colour to our streets...

As you're walking home from the station (or school...or shops) each day, wouldn't it be nice to spy a bit of colour along the way? 

Last year, we helped to plant a community garden where we live and in the midst of it, we learned a lot about the plight of our native wildflowers and pollinators (it's not a pretty story). Thanks to some well-timed guidance from London Wildlife Trust and the Grow Wild campaign (Kew Gardens), we decided to do our bit to bring some native colour and wildlife back to the streets where we live.

Starting small, we adopted a local tree pit outside our home and planted some native wildflower seeds. Before long, poppies, daisies, cornflowers, red campion and other native species were attracting hoards of butterflies, moths and bees to our little corner of Southeast London. The colours and blossoms changed daily as flowers came in and out of season and our neighbours seemed to love the little patch of wildflowers just as much as we did.

After planting the seed in May, the wildflowers were in full bloom 2 months later (July) and only seedheads remained by autumn (September). We collected a few of the seeds for planting the following Spring--leaving the others as a midwinter snack for birds and insects. 

Given the mild Autumn weather in 2016, many of the wildflowers self-seeded and sprouted up for a second time in November. They made a lovely, green, low-lying ground cover mid-winter and have now (mid-March 2017) erupted into a swaying green garden, again. With luck, they'll survive and flower by mid to late May. 

We've now planted our wildflower seeds (collected last Autumn) in a few additional tree pits along our street and hope to be greeted by billowing blooms for much of the summer--a definite improvement upon the exposed soil that's usually on show. What's more, neighbours have shared that they gathered some seed from last year's blooms and they've now sprouted in their pots and beds after planting. Lovely!

So, if you're feeling like your little bit of the world could do with a little dose of colour--look to wildflowers. As native species, they need very little watering since they're well-suited to the growing conditions in the UK. What's more, these native wildflowers provide a valuable food source for our native bees, bugs and birds.

Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • We like the cornfield annual wildflower mix--it's a great mix for vibrant colour and includes native species
  • Remove any weeds and loosen the soil in the tree pits, then add a tiny amount of compost to boost the nutrients in the soil--mixing the compost with the soil. Next, spread wildflower seeds onto the soil according to the instructions on the packet. Cover the seeds with another thin layer of compost before watering in. 
  • You can leave Mother Nature to the job of watering and caring for the seeds, or you can help her out by checking the soil and watering, as necessary, every few days. The goal is to keep the soil relatively moist so that the seeds will germinate quickly. 
  • We placed a little 'wildflowers growing here' stake in the ground where seed were planted to alert others that our seedlings weren't weeds. (Use a lolly stick to make your own)
  • Early-on, leave the seedlings, allowing them to grow rather than weeding along the way. Ultimately, wildflowers look much like weeds in the early stages and it's difficult to tell a friend from a foe. 
  • In Autumn, underplant the wildflowers with bulbs--daffodils, native bluebells and alliums make for a lovely Spring chorus before the Summer's wildflower parade. 
  • We find it's best to adopt spots very near our home and which we pass at least once a day or two--this way, we're able to easily to keep an eye out and nip out with a water jug when they're thirsty. 

Once your blooms get going, keep tabs on the wildlife using this handy identification guide from London Wildlife Trust

Kimberly is the founder of Bumble Box and writes about issues facing parents and their children.

Bumble Box family activity kits scale to include everyone in the family. We catch animals' footprints in the sand, give the trees a shake to see what's living in there, host a Family Olympics, plant a fairy garden, race homemade boats in the stream...you get the drift. Together, we'll make it through your family-time bucket list.

Bumble Box family activity kits make parents heroes.

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